Many expecting women, especially first-time mothers, have questions about physical activity during pregnancy. Exercising while pregnant is safe for mom and baby. In fact, the right types of physical activity are critical in keeping the body healthy for those nine dedicated months.
Benefits of Exercise
In addition to helping you stay in shape, research has shown that it helps prepare your body for labor and delivery. If you are healthy and your pregnancy is normal, it’s important to maintain regular exercise.
Some of the health impacts of exercise for pregnant women include:
- Lowers the risk of pre-term labor, preeclampsia, post-partum depression, developing gestational diabetes, and having a cesarean delivery.
- Reduces back pain, constipation, bloating, and swelling.
- Boosts mood and energy levels.
- Prevents excess weight gain.
- Improves overall fitness.
It is NOT true that physical activity increases your risk of miscarriage, low birth weight, or early delivery.
The baby also benefits from exercise. Studies have shown both positive body composition and neurodevelopment outcomes in the children of women who exercised regularly throughout their pregnancy. Research also shows that children contain less body fat at birth and when they are 5 years old.
Pregnant women are encouraged to exercise for at least 30 minutes five days a week. Marcela C. Smid, MD, an assistant professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at University of Utah Health, encourages women with uncomplicated pregnancies to participate in low-impact activities that won’t exhaust themselves, such as:
- Walking or brisk walking
- Yoga or Pilates
- Strength training
The type of exercise you participate in may depend on your fitness level. Pregnant women are advised to follow these guidelines:
If you are new to exercise: Begin with as little as 5 minutes of exercise a day. Build up to 15 minutes until you reach at least 30 minutes a day.
If you exercised before pregnant: You can continue to work out at the same level but should check in with your doctor for approval.
No matter what kind of shape you’re in, it’s important to listen to your body. Women experience many changes during pregnancy. Avoid activities that put you at increased risk of injury and watch for any warning signs.
Before You Exercise
While most women are encouraged to exercise in pregnancy, there are some conditions in which exercise should be avoided. Consult with your doctor to make sure you don't have one of these conditions, including preeclampsia, severe anemia, or placenta previa.